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God with and without form
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
February 1882: M.'s second visit to the Master
1. God with form is just as true as God without form:
MASTER: Well, do you believe in God with form or without form?
M., rather surprised, said to himself: How can one believe in God without form when one believes in God with form? And if one believes in God without form, how can one believe that God has a form? Can these two contradictory ideas be true at the same time? Can a white liquid like milk be black?
M: Sir, I like to think of God as formless.
MASTER: Very good. It is enough to have faith in either aspect. You believe in God without form; that is quite all right. But never for a moment think that this alone is true and all else false. Remember that God with form is just as true as God without form. But hold fast to your own conviction.
The assertion that both are equally true amazed M.; he had never learnt this from his books. Thus his ego received a third blow; but since it was not yet completely crushed, he came forward to argue with the Master a little more.
2. God with form is an image of the Spirit:
M: Sir, suppose one believes in God with form. Certainly He is not the clay image!
MASTER (interrupting): But why clay? It is an image of Spirit.
M. could not quite understand the significance of this "image of Spirit". But, sir, he said to the Master, one should explain to those who worship the clay image that it is not God, and that, while worshipping it, they should have God in view and not the clay image. One should not worship clay.
3. God knows that He alone is being invoked through a clay image:
MASTER (sharply): That's the one hobby of you Calcutta people – giving lectures and bringing others to the light! Nobody ever stops to consider how to get the light himself. Who are you to teach others? He who is the Lord of the Universe will teach everyone. He alone teaches us, who has created this universe; who has made the sun and moon, men and beasts, and all other beings; who has provided means for their sustenance; who has given children parents and endowed them with love to bring them up. The Lord has done so many things – will He not show people the way to worship Him? If they need teaching, then He will be the Teacher. He is our Inner Guide.
Suppose there is an error in worshipping the clay image; doesn't God know that through it He alone is being invoked? He will he pleased with that very worship. Why should you get a headache over it? You had better try for knowledge and devotion yourself.
This time M. felt that his ego was completely crushed. He now said to himself:
Yes, he has spoken the truth. What need is there for me to teach others? Have I known God? Do I really love Him? I haven't room enough for myself in my bed, and I am inviting my friend to share it with me! I know nothing about God, yet I am trying to teach others. What a shame! How foolish I am! This is not mathematics or history or literature, that one can teach it to others. No, this is the deep mystery of God. What he says appeals to me.
This was M.'s first argument with the Master, and happily his last.
4. God Himself has provided different forms of worship to suit different men:
MASTER: You were talking of worshipping the clay image. Even if the image is made of clay, there is need for that sort of worship. God Himself has provided different forms of worship. He who is the Lord of the Universe has arranged all these forms to suit different men in different stages of knowledge. The mother cooks different dishes to suit the stomachs of her different children. Suppose she has five children. If there is a fish to cook, she prepares various dishes from it - pilau, pickled fish, fried fish, and so on – to suit their different tastes and powers of digestion.
Nature of God:
- Getting overwhelmed with the sorrows of the world
- Goal of human life is to love God
- God alone is real, all else is illusory
Nature of Guru:
- God is with and without form
- God is our inner guide
- Communion with God is full of bliss
- God is our very own
- God creates both good and bad
- God gives the results of our actions
- God is like a magnet which attracts a pure mind
- In every age God incarnates Himself to teach humanity
Nature of Man:
- Satchidananda alone is the guru
Path to God:
- Four classes of men
- Nature of the ever-free
Things to avoid:
- Repeating God's name and singing His glories
- Keeping holy company
- Going into solitude and meditating on God
- Discriminating between the Real and the unreal
- Remembering God while performing worldly duties
- Crying to God with an intensely yearning heart
- Keeping away from the evil-minded
- Having tremendous faith in God
- Cultivating inner strength
- Earnestly praying to God
- Purifying the mind of impurities
- Following the instructions of the Guru
Signs of Spiritual Progress:
- Sin begets its own result
- One should avoid anger
- Hearing the name of God you shed tears
- Feeling that God alone is the doer and I am a mere instrument
- With deep yearning God may be realised by any path